The 747 SuperTanker has been dispatched to South America to assist firefighters who are dealing with numerous fires occurring during a drought in the country. The aircraft is expected to depart from Colorado Springs sometime after 1330 MT on January 24 and should arrive in Santiago around 14 hours later after a stop in Houston to pick up a liquid fire suppression agent that will be mixed with water in the 19,200-gallon tank.
If you want to follow the track of the aircraft, it will show up as “GST944”. GST used to be used by Ghana Airlines, but the company is now out of business.
The initial stage of this deployment, the first few days, is being funded by a private foundation. We will write more about this in a later article.
I will be embedded with the crew, traveling with them in order to report for Fire Aviation on their assignment. As with any wildland fire assignment, we don’t know how long we’ll be in Chile.
The fire siege in Chile has been going on for several weeks destroying more than 60 homes and portions of vineyards, an important industry there. As far as we know, Chile has not received much assistance from outside the country.
A recent emergency declaration by the President has authorized the use of military assets to help combat the fires.
Unusually high temperatures for the last 30 days have contributed to extreme fire behavior. On January 15 three firefighters were entrapped and killed and the pilot of a single engine air tanker was killed December 28 when the aircraft crashed about 15 kilometers from the town of Santa Juana after working on a wildfire in the Bío Bío region.